Adams County supervisors rescind EDA cuts

Published 11:49 pm Tuesday, February 17, 2009

NATCHEZ — The Natchez-Adams Economic Development Authority could get the money the county has been keeping from them as early as today.

On Tuesday the Adams County Board of Supervisors voted to rescind a motion they passed in January that cut the EDA’s funding.

“This has gone on long enough,” supervisor Mike Lazarus said.

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Tuesday’s motion was made by supervisor Thomas “Boo” Campbell and was seconded by supervisor Darryl Grennell.

Supervisor Mike Lazarus was the deciding vote in returning the funding.

He was also the swing vote in January when the funding was originally cut.

Shortly after the funding was cut the legality of the board’s action was questioned by city leaders.

Board President Henry Watts requested an unofficial opinion from the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office to determine whether or not the board acted legally when it backed out of its contractual obligations to fund the EDA.

On Feb. 5 a representative from the attorney general’s office reportedly responded, and advised the board should continue funding.

Lazarus said his decision to rescind the original motion was based on a conversation he had with the board’s attorney, Bobby Cox.

“He advised me to fund the EDA until August,” Lazarus said. “We have to follow the law.”

The law that governs the EDA says, in August, the board and the Natchez Board of Aldermen are supposed to meet to discuss their joint funding of the EDA.

It is at that time when the funding can be altered.

But Tuesday’s meeting wasn’t Lazarus’ first opportunity to alter the motion.

Supervisor Darryl Grennell said at the board’s Feb. 9, meeting, after the attorney general’s office advised the board, he offered a motion to return the funding.

That motion failed.

“It didn’t get the votes,” Grennell said.

Grennell said that vote ended when Lazarus, Watts and supervisor S.E. “Spanky” Felter voted to continue to withhold funding in January.

The same three supervisors originally voted to withhold funding.

Tuesday’s vote marked the third instance in which Felter and Watts voted to withhold funding.

And two of the votes were made after the attorney general’s representative advised the board.

“It was a protest vote,” Watts said sitting in his truck behind the board’s office with Felter Tuesday afternoon.

Watts said he wanted to see the EDA run more efficiently.

“There need to be changes,” he said of the EDA. “It’s not a vote against the law.”

Felter said he felt the EDA was broken and would not vote to fund it until changes had been made.

“I can’t vote for it,” he said.

Tuesday’s vote was also made without a joint meeting between the aldermen and the supervisors.

In the past weeks Watts said he wanted to hear from the attorney general’s office, meet with the aldermen to discuss the findings then vote on what to do.

On Tuesday Watts did not say why the vote was taken without first meeting with the aldermen.

Grennell said he never saw a need to have such a meeting.

“I didn’t need the city to tell me to rescind the action,” he said.

Watts did not say if he was pleased or disappointed with the board’s vote.

“It is what it is,” he said.

Tuesday’s vote was also made in executive session.

Watts said because the employees of the EDA are eligible to receive state retirement benefits, they technically are county employees.

Watts said Tuesday’s vote was a personnel matter.